Loving Our Enemies By the Power of the Holy Spirit
Before Easter I spoke about loving our enemies. There is much more to be said about that in this season of so much conflict, so I want to continue the conversation. I’m speaking today especially about those who stand against religious freedom or the Christian faith and Christian principles of life and morality.
We who follow Jesus must remember that they don’t merely have a problem with those who believe in the Lord of all. Their problem is with Jesus himself. And we know how Jesus responded when they rejected him. He died for them and asked God to forgive their sins even as he hung on the cross they had nailed him to. So I am not angry with those who disagree or those who refuse to accept Him. I love them.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not angry about anything at all. I am angry over the effects of disbelief, the consequences of choosing to walk in our own light rather than God’s light. I am grieved, too: saddened that so many continually stumble when He has offered to be a light unto our path. (See Psalm 119:105; John 8:12.)
Some say it’s hard not to be angry at the opponents of Christ and Christianity. They’re right. And it’s not just hard, it’s impossible — except by the power of the Spirit of God controlling us.
Understand, the Spirit-led approach isn’t a do-nothing approach. What Jesus did on the cross defeated Satan, the supreme enemy of life. And loving our enemies is not to imply failure to protect the innocent from deadly aggressors, murderers and, of course, terrorists. That is the primary role of sound, effective government. (Romans 13:1-3) Nor does it imply that individuals and families should fail to protect their own lives and property from deadly assaults.
It really boils down to the controlling spirit in our lives — is it redemptive or destructive? Protecting life is redemptive, and there is a difference in destruction and protection. Are my deepest desires to see everyone blessed and benefited by what I can share, or do I want in some way to bludgeon them, damage them or destroy them? Am I tempted even as the Pharisees were to use God’s word to beat them up? It is a sad fact that this happens too often.
Remember, the people Jesus rebuked most strongly were the religious zealots of His day. They were “practicing the traditions of men rather than the commandments of God,” (Mark 7:8) and they were “honoring God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him.” (Matthew 15:8) Jesus said they didn’t even know Him or God the Father! There are many religious people still today who are very committed (and yes, zealous for their beliefs) yet do not know Jesus.
Let me give you one instance of how I appreciate critics and those who seem to be enemies. I see them as honing mechanisms. Proverbs 27:17 tells us that “iron sharpens iron.” You can’t sharpen iron with chalk. Friction is required to hone a keen edge. I see my critics as opportunities for me to become a keener cutting edge for the glory of God. Through opposition we can become like silver refined in the fire, or stronger, like tempered steel.
Please pray for God’s Spirit to guide you, and join my wife Betty and me on our journey learning to live in His love while freely and effectively expressing it to everyone — including to our very real enemies, the enemies of life itself.